Having your child formally identified as gifted can sometimes come as a surprise, but sometimes is a relief and simply reinforces what you have long suspected.
It’s great to have a formal identification because now your child’s needs are evidenced on paper and it is essential that schools take note of this and make adjustments as required.
The first place to start is to get informed about giftedness yourself. This will help you when you have discussions with your child’s school and will also give you some great parenting ideas and tips for supporting your child both personally and educationally. Some good websites include Hoagies gifted, the Australian state gifted organisations’ websites, NAGTC...list these here with links.
Once you have a good understanding about the sorts of things that you feel would make a difference to your child’s education, make an appointment with your child’s school to discuss the diagnosis and your child’s ongoing educational needs.
Your first appointment may include the class teacher and the gifted co-ordinator or special learning needs teacher for the school. It is not necessary to involve the principal initially, but you may need to include the principal in future meetings if you are not seeing positive change in the educational provisions for your child.
Schools usually provide an Individual Learning Plan for all students with special learning needs, including gifted students. This should identify the student’s strengths and areas of need and should state specific learning goals for the student over a specified length of time (eg one term). The plan should also explain how the school will facilitate the student in achieving these goals and name the staff members who will be responsible for this.
Don’t be surprised if teachers struggle to identify ways in which they can assist your gifted child. It is important to remember that most teachers have no formal training in identifying or catering for gifted children (just as they have little training in identifying or catering for a whole range of learning disabilities). As the parent, you probably know your child very well and are well placed to share this information with the teacher.
Read up about gifted education strategies such as curriculum compacting, pre-testing, grade telescoping and acceleration (amongst other things) as some of these may assist schools in meeting the needs of your child. You may be educating the school when you introduce these ideas so be prepared to share information respectfully and in a positive way. You may also be paving the way for future gifted students who will benefit from the improved knowledge of their teachers.
Boredom can stem from a range of causes. For example, the work may be too easy for your child, causing boredom and disengagement, or the work may be too challenging for your child and they are reluctant to have a go at it because they do not want to get it wrong. Perfectionism may be behind this, but there may also be social reasons that the child doesn’t engage with their work. They may be reluctant to show what they can do in front of their peers, or they may have always been known as the ‘smart kid’ and because they have never had to try very hard, they may suddenly find a truly challenging task very daunting or embarrassing.
It is important for the teacher to be aware of the real reasons that the child is not finding the work stimulating and it can be helpful to involve both the child and the parents in this discussion.
After an open discussion, some things can be adjusted in the classroom in order to re-engage the student and re-ignite a passion for learning.
One of the best ways to begin is to tap into the child’s interests and create learning programs around this interest, or find ways to tie the interest in to curriculum outcomes, at least initially.
If the child is fascinated with online games such as ‘Fortnite’ then a creative teacher could form an English or Mathematics program around this topic in order to honour the child’s interests.
Other ways to adjust learning programs include….
- Adjusting the pace of learning – by speeding up the delivery of content and reducing practice time for mastery of skills. Examples of this are curriculum compacting, telescoping and pre-testing in order to eliminate the need to teach content that is already known by the student.
- Increasing the complexity of the content: This can move learning from ‘surface learning’ of facts and knowledge (lower order thinking skills) to a more in depth acquisition of the underlying concepts behind the content covered – (relying on higher order thinking skills and flexibility in application of concepts).
- The key to learning is engagement. If a child is always having to do things that they find very difficult or unenjoyable, then even the most diligent student is likely to lose interest over time. Perhaps you can point out to the child’s teacher or the Student Support coordinator that an individual learning plan which uses your child’s interests as a basis for engagement and growth will be more successful. Create programs which can easily be developed to incorporate personal interests and strengths which at the same time as extending children in their area of talent, can also provide opportunities to develop weaknesses (such as fine motor skills).
- It is not uncommon for gifted young children to be perceived as emotionally immature, and this can be used as a reason to prevent the child from being accelerated appropriately. This can be due to the child showing strong emotions, having ‘melt-downs’, not getting along with age peers and being fixated on an idea or interest and refusing to engage with the class routine. In these cases, understanding the common traits of gifted children is very important and can reveal the real reasons that the child may be behaving in these ways. For example:
- A young child who is more developmentally advanced than their aged peers may have reached the stage where they understand that there are rules in games and that these rules help the game to run more smoothly and be fairer for all. If this child is playing alongside peers who have not yet reached that developmental stage, it is likely that they will not be interested in the rules and will make them up as they go along. This can be very frustrating for the child who knows the rules and why they exist, and in young children can lead to strong disagreements, arguments, physical expressions of frustration or anger and poor interpersonal relationships.
- Another example is of gifted children who experience heightened sensitivity in aspects of everyday life. Like the child who can’t bear labels on their clothes as the sensation of the label rubbing against the skin becomes overwhelming and distracting. Or the child who needs a quiet environment to work in because they experience noises more intensely than their peers.
- Similarly, children who constantly think of new aspects to the topic being studied and seem to wander off on a tangent rather than being able to focus on work can be misunderstood by teachers, as can the child who is focussed so intently on an idea or their work that they do not want to leave it to go to lunch or to go on with the next scheduled activity in the classroom.
Any learning plan should be developed in consultation with the parent. You can proactively ask for a meeting to discuss what is included in your child’s learning plan. You may also like to send an email in advance of the meeting to suggest some of the things that you feel would assist your child’s progress and that may be able to be included in the learning plan.
Keep in mind that although gifted students certainly have specific learning needs that differ to other students, schools only receive extra support and funding for students with disabilities (and then only some specific disabilities) and there is no extra government funding to support the needs of gifted children. Schools will need to work within their budget and capabilities in order to provide for your child.
This question is really a big one. Gifted students are all different and may come with a range of co-existing disabilities. Sometimes the disabilities masks the giftedness, and sometimes the giftedness masks the disability! One thing is certain, children with more than one exceptionality (often called ‘twice exceptional’ or ‘2E’ students) require a high level of understanding of each exceptionality in order to have their needs met.
In this case, professional reports are of great assistance to a school. If you have psychological assessments, occupational therapy assessments, speech and language reports, medical reports or any other information that helps shed light on your child’s abilities and disabilities, then it is important to share this information with the school so that they can put adjustments in place accordingly.
These articles may also help.
It is important for the school to focus on the 2E child’s strengths in order to engage the student in learning and develop a positive self esteem and sense of achievement as well as making adjustments that assist the students to overcome the difficulties that their disability causes.
For Tasmanian Catholic Schools contact
Extended Learning Officer – Statewide.
Phone (03) 6210 8888
For Tasmanian Independent Schools contact
Independent Schools Tasmania
PEO Extended learning, Inclusion and Diversity Services
Ph 0427 610 338
This could be for a number of reasons.
- Gifted children are not always good at everything. In fact many gifted children have one area (domain) of extreme ability and may struggle with other domains. Take for example, a gifted athlete who has extraordinary physical ability but isn’t great at art. Or the gifted artist for whom numbers cause only confusion. It is important to look at the big picture. Is the child struggling overall, or in specific subjects? Depending on the individual child, are the expectations being set by the school, the parents and the child themselves realistic?
- Underachievement can occur when a child is not given the opportunity to show what they are capable of, or when the child becomes unwilling to take risks in their learning incase they ‘fail’. In the first case, if the student is always given work that is too easy for them, they may quickly become bored and disengaged. This can lead to mistakes through lack of attention or simply not bothering to do a good job with work that is perceived as too easy for them. In the second case, where the student has always found things easy and has fallen into the habit of not having to ‘try’ in order to achieve, the first really difficult work that the student comes across may be threatening to the student. They may feel that they are suddenly not as clever as they thought they were, or have the sense that they are an imposter and may be ‘found out’. This can lead to a low self esteem and an unwillingness to have a go at learning. The student may even refuse to attempt work all together. In this case it is important for the classroom environment to support a culture of real learning which involves making mistakes in order to find new answers, and risk taking – with no fear of ridicule or failure. In real life, it is often those who try and fail many times who eventually solve the world’s biggest problems. (Edison’s light bulb ?)
- Many young gifted children have ideas flying around in their heads so rapidly that they are unable to articulate these properly, and putting things in writing is nearly impossible as the physical motor skills required for writing are just too slow for a bright child to share everything they want to. In these cases the child may not be able to ‘show what they know’ due to poor writing or motor skills. It is important for teachers to give students a range of ways to show their knowledge so that these children are not disadvantaged.
- Socially / Emotionally is the child settled and feeling safe and able to learn in their classroom environment? Do they have some intellectual peers? Does the teacher seem to understand their needs and have a good relationship with the student? If not, the student may be unwilling to participate in class activities or to engage fully in the work that is offered. They may become a behaviour problem or may blend in and go unnoticed.
In all cases, it is important to get to the bottom of the real reasons that the child isn’t doing well in class so that adjustments can be made to assist the child to achieve at their full potential.
Longitudinal studies of highly gifted children who have been accelerated or grade skipped (M. Gross, 2006) show that it is possible that students may need more than one grade skip or acceleration in their schooling years.
The real goal is to keep the learning challenges aligned with the learning pace of the individual student. There is no set rule that will solve this problem.
For a variety of reasons parents decide to either accelerate their students or hold them back with their age-peers. In every case, the learning opportunities rely on the classroom teacher who works with your child every day. If the learning does not seem to match your child’s needs it is time to have a discussion with the teacher. Differentiated activities could be developed based on the work that the whole class is doing, an individual Learning Plan could be developed to guide the educational pathway of the student, or there may be other adjustments that can be made in the school day such as partial acceleration where the student goes to an older, more complex class for one subject (eg Maths); or another full grade acceleration may best meet their needs.
This can happen with any child, not only a gifted child. The first point of call should always be your classroom teacher. The teacher may be able to shed some light on the reasons that your child is feeling this way.
No! Many are, but some can become bored by lack of challenge and motivation in a learning
experience. Some do not have their abilities recognised at school and some will drop out early, underachieve or misbehave.
No! Gifted students may be found in all sectors of society, regardless of race, religious beliefs, socio-economic background, geographic location or physical ability.
Gifted students stay gifted but may display their gifts in varying degrees at different times in their lives. This can depend upon their experiences, stage of development, motivation, interest and support for achievement in their learning experiences.
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Gifted children are born with the potential to excel in their strength areas. If the child’s strengths are not recognised and nurtured at home, at school and by the community they may not fully develop.